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DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL An official document penned by the Istanbul Provincial Education Directorate has surfaced, revealing that Turkey’s population administration system has been recording citizens who have Armenian, Jewish or Anatolian Greek (Rum) origins with secret “race codes.” The Armenian-Turkish weekly newspaper Agos published as its headline story on Aug.

Turkey has been an associate member since 1963, but the EU still has not offered it full membership, despite the country’s membership in NATO and its role as a vital pillar to European security.

“The funny thing about the European-Turkish relationship,” says Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official who focused on Turkey and the Middle East, “is that both sides have been faking it for some time.” Rubin, now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, adds that “the dream among liberal Turks and Europeans about tying the two together has been on life support for more than a decade, poisoned largely by [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s behavior.” In recent weeks, that behavior vis-à-vis Europe has taken a turn toward the extreme.

On the other hand, if Erdogan loses, the result could be even more dire.

The Turkish president has put everything on the line for this vote, and he is unlikely to take defeat lying down.

In this context, many Turks see recent Dutch and German decisions to cancel the political rallies of Erdogan surrogates – designed to win referendum votes from large Turkish expat communities in EU countries – as a bigoted attack on Turkish national pride. According to Pearson, “Turkey’s referendum campaign has revealed the government’s nervousness.” In a tight race to shift revolutionary new powers to the presidency, Erdogan is pulling out all the stops in his campaign, branding any who oppose a “yes” vote as terrorists and deploying oppressive tactics against his opposition.

European news organizations like the German newspaper – which proclaimed to Erdogan, “You are not a democrat! Erdogan’s political strategy in Europe, says Pearson, “ is to sharpen divisions and consolidate his base with nationalistic and religious messages.” Will Erdogan’s rhetoric ease off once the referendum is over? If he wins, he will need to make difficult – and unlikely – concessions to repair the dismal state of Turkish-EU relations.

In Dutch elections earlier this month, Wilders did not manage to unseat the moderate prime minister, but he did gain new seats in parliament.

Populists still threaten major upsets at elections in France and Germany this year. At the same time, stoking this kind of tension with Europe provides Erdogan with clear domestic political benefits.

Transcending cultural differences and customs is just a small step to achieve that.

Turkish citizens who have Armenian, Jewish or Anatolian Greek origins have been recorded with ‘race codes,’ an official document has revealed.

Erdogan’s “one goal now,” says Pearson, “is victory on April 16.

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